Tuesday, 25 May 2010

'Return to core values and the law, not the War on Terror'

The victory of appeals by Pakistani students Abid Naseer and Ahmed Faraz Khan against deportation should have marked a victory for human rights in this county. No matter what the charge against them, no person should be deported to a country where they could face torture. And as Mr Justice Mitting commented in his ruling, Pakistan has a ‘long and well-documented history of disappearances, illegal detention and of the torture and ill-treatment of those detained, usually to produce information, a confession or compliance’.

Yet the outcome of this case is anything but a victory for human rights. The entire case has set worrying precedents about the use of secret evidence and trial by media. The men’s lawyer, Gareth Pierce, ‘It's no victory even though the young men have won, in the sense that they have been stigmatised for life and put at risk or even further risk in their own country on the basis of the shocking phenomenon of secret evidence. It's no way to conduct justice. If people have committed a crime, put them on trial.’

Both students were among 11 men who were arrested in April last year on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack. Despite being released without charge a fortnight later, ten of the men were immediately detained for several months in prison and deported. Pilloried in the press, their reputations ruined, their lives are changed for evermore on the basis on secret evidence from Pakistan almost certainly attained under torture.

As Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty stated, 'There simply is no shortcut, no substitute for charges, evidence and proof in these cases. We need to return to core values and the law, not the War on Terror'.